Vantage point

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Track

Lost in the din of Dravid's wrong toss and the Tendulkar Boo-Boo is a story no one has paid any attention towards - the Wankhede pitch. The previous test match at Wankhede lasted barely two days, and a pitch which would have made minefields look like beach resorts was held responsible.

This time though, the pitch has made absolutely no news....and that is good news. The Wankhede ground staff has gone a fair distance in redeeming itself after the 2004 nightmare.

The pitch had a grassy look to it on the first morning, tricking Dravid into electing to field. Though the Indians picked only 3 wickets, it must be said that the pitch had bounce, and the bounce persists even now on day 4. The English seamers were able to get bounce and movement off the seam and reduced India to a mess. But once a batsman played himself in, he was able to play quite comfortably and only a rash shot or bad luck would dismiss him as Dhoni, Pathan, Yuvraj and Dravid would testify.

Day three onwards the pitch has deteriorated a bit and the roughs have formed, but the surprising bounce persists, and the pitch is well suited for a bat-vs-ball contest. As I write this post, England are all out towards the end of Day 4 and India will be chasing 313 at a runrate of around 3.

This sets up a thrilling last day, since the pitch even on day 5 has a bit for both sides, which is a rarity. Usually in India pitches either break up and turn into the proverbial dustbowls like in Bangalore, or ease out even further and become belters like Nagpur. A pitch like Chepauk which stays alive right untul the last session is a rarity.

And a Wankhede pitch which sees the match evenly poised even as it enters the fifth day is a pleasant surprise.